Link to chapter 2 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/10/huntley-harlequin-undone-that-came.html
In an attempt at forgetting his kiss with his mystery woman, Sheppard went to see his mistress.
If anyone could help him forget his brief encounter with Theodora, it would be the dexterous Jezebel. Sheppard liked his mistress. She had a quiet strength and honest devotion on which he had come to rely.
Jezebel had been his mistress for the last year and in that time she had listened to him and supported him through one family crisis after another. Still he could not truly call her a friend for he did not know her well enough for that. Their relationship had always been about his needs and her ability to take care of them.
Jezebel was brilliant at what she did and soon he was sleeping contently beside her salacious body. Even so, as he slept, he dreamt only of Theodora’s smiling, heart shaped face.
And that was when he realized that he would have to end his relationship with Jezebel. Despite her many and varied talents, he had been able to think of only one woman, and Sheppard simply could not continue his life in that vein.
Sheppard had only just fallen into that part of sleep where one’s body is completely at rest, when he felt a familiar presence enter the room. He knew that Harry was standing at the foot of the bed even before he was fully awake. Just as Harry knew, he was awake now even though he had not yet moved his body or opened his eyes.
It had always been that way with the cousins, an unspoken kinship bred from their shared attempt to understand one another.
Sheppard remained lying motionless and waited for trepidation to consume his consciousness, but it never came. Yet he knew that for Harry to disturb him in this particular venue at this hour, it would have to be for a reason far greater than death.
This could only mean one thing. His most recent attempt at emancipation, from the tyranny of their lunatic grandfather had undoubtedly landed him at the centre of some scandal.
“Good morning, Harry?” Sheppard said his smooth baritone greeting more question than salutation and followed by a pause not long enough to be filled by anyone but the speaker. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
This particular pleasure was laced with a deliberate warning.
Harry smiled at the warning then returned his cousin’s salutation with such elation and bravado that it put him in mind of a child’s exuberance at Christmas but it was done so that all he could do was stifle his groan and give himself a swift mental kick.
Nonetheless, it did the trick. Changing the atmosphere of the room from one charged with Sheppard’s contained worry to one brimming with his unbridled joy and it got Sheppard up.
In one decisive movement, Sheppard leapt from the bed. Dragged on his trousers and gathered the rest of his clothes before saying, “I’ll meet you below stairs in five minutes.”
Without once permitting himself to wonder at the reason for Harry’s early morning excitement, Sheppard washed, dressed and joined his cousin in the little green, French-style sitting room at the front of his mistress’s townhouse.
Harry was still sorting out the details that brought him there into a precise enough language when Sheppard entered the room, with a solicitous smile on his handsome face.
Harry despised that particular expression. It never failed to call to mind their controlling grandfather. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Sheppard always resembled the Marquess; they both did. All the Monthermer’s were blessed with exquisitely symmetrical features and hair, the colour of jet. The combination could be exceedingly intimidating even on their grandfather with his now distinguished silver locks.
But it was Sheppard, with his warm, smiling blue eyes that most resembled the old man.
Logical Sheppard, precise as a mathematical equation, tall and lean with the sums of his necessary parts adding up to a magnificent whole. He was all seamless ratios with wide shoulders and ideally narrow hips down to a disposition that reflected the multifaceted tapestry that was his life, as influential restrained Lord of the peerage, compassionate philanthropist, and devoted patriarch.
He was simply a striking man who came more into his own way of being with each passing year. Then again, Sheppard was also Lucifer, an enigmatic lord who smiled only to coerce compliance in the face of opposition. This was the real reason Harry detested that aforementioned smirk, and the pompous older-thus-wiser look that came along with it.
He stood directly across from Harry looked him straight in the eye and said, “Right, lets have it.”
Harry took a deep breath and then said to his cousin in a tone far more becoming a gentleman, “I lost Chiron Herd in a wager against the Marquess Hereford that I could penetrate the armour that protected the daughters of Howe –”
“Asinine, so far removed from brilliance that it borders on mental retardation,” Sheppard said in an attempt to intimidating Harry into recanting.
Halfway through it the futility of the entire thing dawn on him. After all, the damage was done. The only thing he could do now was help Harry find a solution before their grandfather got wind of it. Sheppard looked to a Harry, who was clearly oblivious to his own plight and was still rambling on about his perceived brilliant victory.
Though Sheppard was certain his face was showing signs of his distaste for the conversation, Harry continued to prattle on about his ill-conceived wager with Hereford, as if he were an imbecile.
The wager, as far as Sheppard understood it, was rather straightforward.
Harry was to arrange five consecutive public meetings with each of the eligible daughters of Lord Howe at the locations specified by the Hereford. If Harry were successful, Hereford would hand over enough gold sovereigns for him to purchase ten Captain’s commissions in the regimental Foot Guards. If he failed, Harry would immediately turn over the Marques of Huntley’s eight identical grey horses.
“When will you inform the Marquess?”
“He already knows,” Harry said nonchalantly.
“I thought you said I was the first to know.”
“You’re not making any sense Harry,” Sheppard snapped irritably.
“Jerrold is outside,” Harry said as he watched his grandfather’s man walk towards the front door.
It turned out that Harry’s little stunt had caused their grandfather to suffer one of his little events and had taken to his bed. Sheppard was convinced the old man was only pretending to have an episode and told Harry as much.
Even so, Harry was having a difficult time accepting what he felt he had done and had spent the last two weeks packing up his Belgrave Square residence vowing to anyone who would listen about his intent to spend the rest of his days in exile in America.
Now Sheppard was going to Belgrave to have breakfast with his tormented cousin in hopes of convincing him otherwise. As he headed south in a short cut through Hyde Park from the residence he shared with his grandfather in Connaught Square he happened on Theodora.
She was out for an early morning ride with her intimidating groom and nearly fell off her horse when he entered the path and demanded a moment. She dismounted with dignity and handed her mount to the groom before preceding Sheppard off the path through dew damp grass.
Sheppard followed her in silence for several steps half expecting her to disappear like some mythical nymph when she suddenly stopped and without turning around said, “My heart is doing all it can to escape its confines only I can’t tell if it’s from fear or joy.”
“You have nothing to fear from me,” he assured her and she turned with a melancholy smile that broke his heart.
By the light of the early morning sun, she was a feast for the senses. She was a lavish beauty bathed in warm golden rays. Standing there thus, he thought her to be Lilith, sinful and plenty. She was an ocular ecstasy. Filling him with thoughts of slow poured honey, there with her pensive stare, warm glowing skin, pink full lips and rich golden locks.
He had a million things he wanted to say. Questions he wanted answered but none of then came to mind there with her looking at him with something like guarded delight. Then she smiled and said, “I’m currently too filled with misery to take anything but joy from your presence.”
Sheppard want to ask why she was so unhappy, to offer her words of comfort to make her smile the way she had when first they met, but he did feel the change for she step forward and asked, “Are you very warm?”
It was a strange thing to ask and when he opened his mouth to answer, she interjected with heartbroken whisper, “I asked only because you look to me as warm comfort aught to and I wondered if you would hold me awhile. Just long enough for me to find some equilibrium.”
What could he do? He held her close until she sighed with contentment. Her face was buried in his torso and when he dragged his hand over her spine in a soothing caress, she tightened her hold around his waist and nestled closer. Then all the tension fell away from her body and she was alive in his arms.
She, now warm from where his heat burned along the places where their bodies clung in a sweet embrace ran her hand up under his jacket and sunk her nails into his back. Sheppard stood still expectantly while she pulled from his flesh want and built desire in him.
Then she lifted her face with passion-filled grey eyes that pleaded and he kissed her lips selflessly, offering self and comfort. His lips, masterful and silky, tender on hers, while his tongue, hot and nurturing, coaxed away her hurt. She took all he had to offer.
He was lost in her and her despair, tasting her tears in their kiss. He lifted his head to search her face with the hope that he could banish whatever it was that had her so sick at heart. She smiled bravely and he wiped her face dry with a compassionate hand.
He opened his mouth once more to offer her comfort when she turned suddenly toward the sound of hooves in the distance.
“I cannot be discovered here alone with you,” she said frantically and then her groom was at her side with their horses. Sheppard could hardly believe it when she mounted her mare and rode off once more without giving him, her name, direction or explanation.
Tomorrow, he vowed, he would go to his Aunt Gertrude after he had seen to Harry so that when he rose he would have a name to go with the girl that haunted his dreams.
Link to chapter 4 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/11/huntley-intended-harlequin-historical.html
Part Three of Six,
by Simone Ogilvie